Chapter 196706467

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196706467
Full Date1882-02-18
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count3609
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleThe Brigadier
article text

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?: BV IVAN'TonBOnESEFF, IS TESIl'LEiBiB.-.

CnAPTEE I.

Do you know, reader, those little lanijor-JioBscii which- abounded twonty-five or thirty -jtcarayaga in tho Ukraine of Great Russia ?' Few remain at this day, and perhaps, as thoy, aro built of wood, boforo ten. ycarsthe last will havo disappeared without leaving a trace ' One observed at -first a pool of running water bordered by roods bbJ - dwarf ' willows,-1 whore paraded broods of ' cKicts. with-whom at times' was associated a '-'sn'yJ,tea3 j

boyond the pool, a garden, 'planted with limlcnx (tho pride of our regioni of darkv earth), and^cnt-. into long bordors, whero boll-flowers, retches xafl-. stray ears of ryo -and'oat minglod'withi ibe- ??straVbenies';1'then a thicket of tod; «n-I''iH«3t ourrants/ and raspberries, Tin thorinids't'of irilcb,. atitho hour .ol the; dumb' hoat' of DOon,.CDdira»! sure, to: seapasa'the Istriped ikerohioliol ,»v xaai3 '8omn,t,-B|pglng'at-ftortop of-horToice, ' -Ko*tax pff.aMantjr tilcaen-gardoni-whoro aisimna esi

sparrows covered the stakes, while a cat crouched on a rained well— surrounded a little greenhouse raised, as pur fairy tales say, on chickens' claws; farther off still, a meadow of tall grass, green below, grey at the point, thickset with pear trees, apple trees with bushy heads, and cherry trees with slender arms. Near the house reached a flower garden fall of poppies, peonies and tbo flowers wo call 'Aniouta's eyes' and 'maid in green.' An incessant humming of bees and bornots, joyful and dense, was heard in the tufted, gluey branches of tho wild jasmine, yellow acacia and lilac. At last one reached tho house. One story in height, raised on a layer of brickwork, with greenish glass in its narrow win dows, which projected fromaplank roof, formerly painted red, it displayed a doorstep, Burroundod by a worm-eaton balustrade, under which in a . hole lived a dumb old watch dog. Beyond tho house the vast courtyard extended, covered with nettles, dock and wormwood, with the work buildings, such as tho cellar, tho kitchen and the barns, who3o thatched roofs, burrowed by mice, were the dwelling-places of pigeons and crows. And last rolled into view tho highway, with streaks of soft dust in its deep ruts, the culti vated grounds, the long torn hedgerows which surrounded the hemp fields, the poor scattered iib&aot thevillage, andtheimmensemcadows inun dated in spring time, from which rose the clamor of thousands of goese. Do you know all that, reader? Within, all is aBkew and shaky ; still it holds together and keeps warm. There are elephantine chimneys, and incongruous pieces of furniture made with tho household tools. Narrow whitish paths, worn by feet, wind over the oiled and varnished floor-boards. Tho antechamber is {all of little cages enclosing larks and green finches ; an immense English clock, high as a tower and bearing the mysterious inscription 'strike and silence,' Btands in tho dining-room. Ancestral portraits with an expression of severe dulness, or perhaps a frayed picture representing either flowers and fruit, or some mythological subject offering nudities under blown draperies, are tho ornaments of tho walls of the room. Everywhere is the odor of kvius, of apple, of rye bread, of leather ; swarms of Sie3 hum and buzz in striking the ceiling, while active motha play with their feelers behind the worn gilt frame of a mirror. All tho same, one ci-n live there, and well. Chapter II. . Bach a cottage I happened to visit thirty years ago ; an old story as you see. The little domain in which it was found belonged to one of my university comrades. He had inherited it quite recently from a bachelor uncle, and did not live on it himself. At a short distance, however, ex tended some large marshes, where during the passago of summer abounded great snipe. My eomrade and I, passionate sportsmen, had ap pointed a meeting at this house for St. Peter's day, the opening of the season. He had to come from Moscow, I from my village. My comrade was detained and did not come till several days later. I did not wish to begin shooting without him. I had been received by an old servant named Narkiz, who had been warned of my arrival. This old servant did not all resemble Caleb or Savelitch,* but deserved more tho nick name of Marquis, which my friend jocnlarly gave him. He had a bearing full of assurance, almost of dignity, and manners refined in their slowness. He looked with pity on us young follows, and evinced little respect for tho class of gentlemen ; he spoke of his old master with a disdainful neg ligence, and as to his fellow-servants, ho despised them profoundly 'for their ignorance' — that was his expression. In fact, he could read and write, expressed himself with clearness and prc eision, drank no brandy, and rarely went to thurch, which caused him to be held a heretic. He was tall and spare, had a long and regular faoe, nose sharp, and eye-brows thick and always in motion. He wore a long and very neat over coat, and high boots pointel in form of a heart. Chapter III. The day of my arrival, Narkiz, after having gravely served my breakfast, stopped in the door way, considered me, moved his thick eyebrows, and said at last : ' Well, sir, what are you going to do now !' 'I don't know. If Nicholas Petrovitch had kept his promise, we should have gone out shoot ing.' 'Ham! then you hoped, sir, that he would keep hiB promiso faithfully ?' ' Certainly ; I counted on it.' ' Hum !' Narkiz regarded me anew fixedly, and shook his head with an air of compassion. ' If yon feel inclined to amuse yourself by read ing, we still have some of the old master's books. Only, so for as I con suppose, yon will not read them.' 'Why?' 'They ore good-for-notbing books; they are not written for gentlemen of the present day.' ' You have read them ?' ' If I had not read them, I would not speak of them. A book of dreams for instance, what sort of a book is that ? There are others, truly ; but you wonld not read them, either.' ' Because 1' ' They are books of divinity.' I remained silent, and Narkiz also. A sort of Inward sneer moved his lips. 'What is above all disagreeable,' resumed I, ' is to remain in the house in such fins weather.' ' Walk in the garden, go in the wood ; wo have a birch wood hero. Or would you rather fish ?' 'Have you any fish ?' 'Yes, in the pool: perch tench, gudgeon. Trne, tho season is over ; we are near July. Still ono might try. Shall a line be prepared for yon?' . , 'Do mo the pleasure.' 'I will send you a young boy, to thread the worms on the hook ... or must I come with you myself ?' It was evident Narkiz donbted my ability to get through the affair alone. ' Yes, certainly, come, come,' said I to him. . ' He gavo a broad smile, in silence, knit his hrowo, and left tho room. Chapter IV. Half an hour afterwards wo set ont fishing. ' Narkiz bad wrapped himself up in I know not ; -what long-eared cap, which rendered him still moro majestic. Ho marched in front with a - solemn and measured tread ; two lines swung in \In the 'Captain's Daughter's' of Pushkin .

cadence from his Bhonldor. A little boy with naked feet, and with eyes fixed respectfully on the back of Narkiz, followed him, bearing a pot full of wormB and a watering-can to hold tho fish. ' Here, near tho dyke,' explained Nariiz to mo, ' a floating bank has boon prepared for greater convenience. Eh ! eh ! onr idlers are already there ! Look ! it has become a regular habit.' I raised ay head, and on this same bank por coived two men, seated with their backs to.us, fishing tranquilly. 'Who are they?' asked I. 'Neighbors,' answered Narkiz impatiently. ' They have nothing to eat at home, and so they honor us with their visit.' ' They are permitted to fish hero?' ' Tho old master permitted them ; I don't know whethor Nicholas Petrovitch. . . . The taller of tho two is a Bub-deacon out of engage ment, a worthless man : tho stouter is a briga dier.' ' How ! a brigadier?' exclaimed I. The garments of this brigadier were almost more pitiable than those of the sub-deacon. ' It is as I have the honor to tell you. He pos sessed a very good property ; and now it is by favor ho gots a corner in an isbu, and ho lives on what Qod sends him. But what are we to do ? They have taken the best places. Wo mast dis turb theeo amiable visitors.' ' No, Narkiz, leave them alone ; do not dis turb them. Wo will tako another place. I wish to make the brigadier's acquaintance.' 'As you please ; bat as to making acquaint ance, you must not hope, sir, to got much plea sure from it. He has become very weak of com prehension, and as stupid in conversation as a little child. In fact, he is near his eightieth year,' ' What's his name ?' ' Yassili Fomitch ; family name GousskofT.' ' And tho sub-deacon?' ' The Bub-deacon ? Ho is called Cucumber — everybody calls him so, and as to his true name, Qod alone can know. A good-for-nothing, I tell you — a regular vagabond.' ' They live together ?' ' No, but the devil, as they say, has joined them by a cord.' Chapter V. We approached the bank. The brigadier raised his eyes to us for an instant, and immediately re turned them to his float. Cucumber leaped from his placo, pulled his line with one hand and with the other drew off his greasy cap. After having passed his trembling fingers over his roach yel low hair, ho mado us a profound bow, giving oat a little constrained laugb. Tho puffiness of his face betokened a regular drunkard, and his littlo eyes winked with a timid humility. He gave his neighbor a nudge, as if to remind him that it was time to be off. The brigadier began to fidget on his seat. ' Stay, I beg you,' cried I, 'you are not in our way. We will tike this place. Stay.' Cucumber pulled up tho flap of his worn over coat, shrugged his shoulders, and shook his beard. Our presence visibly troubled him. Ho would havo preferred to go away. But the briga dier was reabsorbod in the contemplation of his float. . The ex-Bub-deacon coughed in his band, drew his naked feet under him, covered hiB knees with his cap, and modestly replaced his lino in tho water. ' Do they rise ?' gravely asked Narkiz. 'We have caught five little tench,' answered ?Cucumber in a hoarse and broken voice, 'and his Grace has taken a large perch.' ' Yes, a perch,' repeated the brigadier in a shrill voice. Chapter VI. I set myself to consider attentively, not him self, but his image reflected in the water. It was presontcd to me as in a mirror, more sombre, and at tho same time more silvery. Tho vast surface of the pool breathed coolness to us, which came also from tho humid earth of tho bank, all cracked, and as it were ploughed by tho melting of the snow. This coolness was the moro agree able that above, over the summits of tho bushy trees, one felt hanging in the gilded azuro of the sky tho burden of a motionless heat. Tho water round the bank did not stir ; in the shadow cast on it from the bushes on its margin, shone, like little steel buttons, water-spiders de scribing their incessant rounds. Slight ripples played round tho floats whon the fish dallied with tho bait ; they did not bite. In tho spaco of an entire hour wo took only two gudgeon. I do not know why tho brigadier bo ex cited my enriosity. His rank could havo no in fluence on me, and in those times a ruined gentleman was no rare thing. His ex terior also had nothing remarkable. Under a padded cap, which entirely coverod his head from neck to eyebrows, was seen a round and red viasge, with small nose, small lips, and small eyes of clear grey. ' Simplicity, feebleness of spirit, and I know not what ancient sorrow, surviving without consolation and without rolief, were ex pressed by this meek and almost childish visage. His hands, white and plump, with short stout fingers, also indicated an irremediable awkward ness. I could not imagine how this poor little old man could over have been a warrior, havo com manded others, and that during tho rude ago of tho groat Catherine. From time to time ho swelled his cheeks and puffed us do littlo children ; then he seemed to make efforts to Bee what was before him as do de crepit old men. Once only ho opened wide his eyes, which seemed to mo larger than I had thought them at first. Their gaze was directed towards me from tho bottom of the water, and this gaze appeared to mo strangely touching and significant at the same time. Chapter VII. I tried to open conversation with him ; bnt Narkiz had not decoived me. Tho poor old man, in fact, had become very weak of comprehension. He inquired the namo of my family, mado mo re peat it two or three times, seemed to roflect, and cried out suddenly : ' Bat we had a judge of that name. Cucum ber, wasn't there Buch a judge, oh ?' 'Yes, yes, my little father Vassili Fomitch ; yes, your Once,' answered Cucumber, who seemed to treat him as a child — ' yes, there was a judge ; but give me your lino— I believe the worm ib eaten. It is eaten, in fact.' ' Did you know tho Lomoff family?' said the brigadier suddenly to me, making a great effort over himself. 'What family!' raid I. 'How ! what family I Fodor Ivanitch, Andr-S Ivanitch, Alexis lvanitch, the Jew, Theodulio Ivanovna, tha plundoresa, ami besides ? ' Tho brigadier brusquely interrupted himself and lowered his eyes. 'They wore his greatest intimateB,' eaiil Nar kiz in a low voice, leaning towards me. 'It is thanks to thorn, thanks to that Alexis Ivanitch, whom ho just spoko of 03 a Jew, and especially thanks to' another sister, Agrafdna Ivanovna, that he has lost all his fortune.' . V What are you muttoringthoro about AgrafiSna tyanovna?' cried tho brigadier, suddenly. And his head raised itself, and his white eyebrows contracted. 'Tako care that .... how' dare you namo her with that clownish impolite ness ? AgraKna ? Agrippina, you should say. ' ' Soo, see, little father,' aaid Cucumber, inter posing. '.???? ' You do not know then what tho poot Milonof wrott in her honor ?' continued tho old man/ who was entered in an agitation I had not been i

able to anticipate And ho began to dcolaim with emphasis, pronouncing tno syllables 'an' and ' en' in a sub-nasal tono, in French manner, as did our ancient pclits-maUrcs, ' ' No ; tho flaming hymeneal torches' . . . that's not it, but this : 'No ; it is not the vain idol of frailty, it is not amaranth nor porphyry which fill them with their charms' . . . them, do you hoar ? It is us two that it is all about. ' Their only care, without impediment, agreeable, detectable, full of langour, is rather to nourish in their blood a mutual flame.' And you dare to say AgraKna ?' Narkiz smiled with an air half indifferent, half disdainful. But tho brigadier had already again let bis head fall upon his breast, and the line glided from his hand into the wator. Chapter VIII. ' I soe it is not worth tho troublo, said Cu cumber, suddenly. ' Tho fish do not riso, and his Graco is just seized with an access of melan choly. Let us go in— that will be better.' Ho drew from his pocket with precaution a littlo tin bottle stopped with a wooden peg, and poured on the back of his hand several pinches of bad tobacco mixed with ashes, which ho stuffed in both nostrils at the samo time. ' Oh ! divine tobacco,' cried he, coming to himself as from an ecstasy, ' it gives you a thrill right to the teeth. Come, my littlo pigeon, Vas sin Fomitch, deign to riso.' Tho brigadier rO3e from his seat. ' Do you live far from here ?' I asked Cucum ber. ' His Graco does not live far away, loss than a vorsto.' . ' Will you permit mo to see you homo ?' asked I of the brigadier, not wishing to separate from him so soon. Ho regarded me fixedly, and smiled with that peculiar smile — grave, polished and slightly affocted — which I have nover seen but on tho faces of very old men, and which always reminds mo — I don't know why— of powder and a French coat with stress buttons, in a word, of the lost century. Then, he added, laying stress on each syllable, 'he would be enchanted,' and immedi ately fell again into his torpor. Tho gallant chevalier of tho time of Catherine had for an in stant reappeared. Narkiz was astonished at my insistonco ; but I gavo no heed to the disapproving shakos of his tall cap, and left the garden, following the briga dier, whom Cucumber supported by the arm. Tho old man walked fast enough, but with short steps, quick and stiff as if with stilts. Chapter IX. Wo followed? a bye-path hardly traced in a grassy dale between two knots of birch-treos. Tho sun was broiling ; orioles answored each other in the green thicket ; landrails gavo forth their strident cry ; littlo blue butterflies fluttered in troops on tho clover-flowers ; bees, as if asleep, entangled themselves and hummed in the motion less grass. Cucumber shook himsolf and re covered his spirits ; he feared Narkiz, under whoBO eyes ho hod to live. As to me, I was to him nothing but a stranger, a passer ; he soon became familiar. - ' See,' said he, in hiB harried, thick .voice, ' his Graco is certainly very moderate ; but how could yon expect a Binglo fish to satisfy him, unless your honor deign to make us a little gift ? There is, round the turning, a famous inn where ono can get very good rolls of brown bread, and if you should wish to extend your benevolence to mo, a fisherman,' I should treat myself to a little gloss . . .' to'your health, to wish you length of days.' ? I cave him a piece of twenty kopecks, and had hardly time to withdraw my hand, which ho had snatched to kiss. He learned that I was a sports man, and began to relate that ho had a good acquaintance, a retired officer who possessed a true Swedish firelock, ' a Min-din-den-ger, with a copper barrel, a regular cannon,' added he, ' for you firo a shot and you stand quite stunned and dreamy. It was found after tho retreat of tho French in 1812. This officer had a dog, of which I can only say a Binglo thing : it was a freak of nature. Myself I havo a veritable pas sion for sport, and my popo finds nothing to blamo in it. Far from that. Ono night wo both placed ourselves in our shirts, to go and catch some quail by call-note ; but our archbishop is an implacablo tyrant. As to Narkiz Somenitcb,' added he, with a bitter smile, 'if, according to his judgment, I havo becomo a man of littlo account, I Bhall have tho honor to object that ho has forced his eyebrows out like a blackcock, and imagines by that ho has traverecd all the sciences.' Discoursing in this manner we approached tho inn, on old solitary iibi, without courtyard or enclosure. A lean uog was curled up under tho window, and a fowl no less emaciated scratched the dust undor his nose. Cucumber seated tho brigadier on a little bank of earth, and dis appeared immediately behind the door of the inn. While ho was buying his rolls and treating him self to a glass of brandy, I did not tako my eyes off tho brigadier, whom I persisted in regarding as an enigma. ' I am bum,' said I to mysoli, ' that something extraordinary has taken place in the life of thiB man.' As to him, ho did not seem even to notice me. He was seated on tho bank with arched back, and he rolled in his fingers several pinks, gathered in my friend's garden. Cucumber reappeared at last with a string of rolls. His face, red, and in pcrspira tion, expressed a sanctimonious astonishment, as if he had juBt learned something very agreeable and nnexpectod. One of the rolls he immediately offered to tho brigadier, who put it botwoen his tooth, and we set oat again. (To DB CONTIHUED IH OdE NbXT.)